One of the recurring plot lines is the relationship between Leonard and Penny. Leonard becomes attracted to Penny in the pilot episode and his need to do favors for her is a frequent point of humor in the first season. Meanwhile, Penny dates a series of muscular, attractive, unintelligent, and insensitive jocks. Their first long-term relationship begins when Leonard returns from a three-month expedition to the North Pole in the season 3 premiere. However, when Leonard tells Penny that he loves her, she realizes she cannot say it back. Both Leonard and Penny go on to date other people; most notably with Leonard dating Raj's sister Priya for much of season 4. This relationship is jeopardized when Leonard comes to falsely believe that Raj has slept with Penny, and ultimately ends when Priya sleeps with a former boyfriend in "The Good Guy Fluctuation".
After learning Sheldon went behind their backs to work with the military again, Leonard and Howard say Sheldon is like Thomas Edison, taking credit for others' ideas, while they are more like Nikola Tesla. Leonard and Howard bring in Barry Kripke to help create a better idea than Sheldon's, but Kripke goes to the military himself, cutting all three of them out. Meanwhile, Bernadette fears Ruchi is trying to steal her projects at work while she is on maternity leave and enlists Raj to spy on her. Though he finds proof that Ruchi may be stealing from Bernadette, Raj tries to defend Ruchi like a boyfriend would, pointing out Bernadette's hypocrisy as she would most likely have stolen from other people's projects as well. Ruchi is not happy about this and promptly dumps Raj.
Howard and Bernadette's new neighbor Andy begins using floodlights mounted on his balcony that encroaches on their rear deck and hot tub. Investigating whether the lights comply with city code, they enlist Sheldon to help them with the paperwork, but Sheldon finds out Howard and Bernadette's own deck is also not code-compliant. He considers turning them in, but ultimately chooses friendship over the rules. He does report Andy though for violating property lines, allowing Howard and Bernadette to enjoy their deck again. Meanwhile, Bert wants to cut into a meteorite with Raj's help, rejecting Leonard's idea to use his laser to do so. Leonard dreams that he opens the meteorite with his laser, becomes possessed by an alien intelligence and eats Bert, Raj and Penny. He later apologizes to Raj and Bert, admitting he was jealous. The possibility of the meteorite unleashing a plague scares Stuart and Denise, who use it as foreplay for procreation, Stuart closing the store on Sheldon when he tries to browse.
In March 2017, the main cast members (Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg, and Nayyar) took a 10% pay cut to allow Bialik and Rauch an increase in their earnings. This put Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg and Nayyar at $900,000 per episode, with Parsons, Galecki, and Helberg also receiving overall deals with Warner Bros. Television. By the end of April, Bialik and Rauch had signed deals to earn $500,000 per episode, each, with the deals also including a separate development component for both actors. The deal was an increase from the $175,000 – $200,000 the duo had been making per episode.
Leonard's mother Beverly visits, and he is thrilled when she takes an interest in his work. However, when he learns that she is doing research on him for a new parenting book, he is furious. He prepares to tell her how she let him down over the years, but instead chooses to accept and forgive her, and forgive himself for holding onto that resentment for so long. Beverley is touched that he forgave her and they share a genuine hug. Meanwhile, Anu gets a job offer in London. Raj prepares to fly out and propose to her, ready to follow her if she accepts. Howard stops Raj at the airport, saying there is a better match out there for him, convincing Raj to return home. Stuart and Denise are bothered by her creepy roommate Mitch, while Bernadette and Howard are tired of Denise constantly staying overnight with Stuart at their house. Stuart says he is ready to move in with Denise, and they say they love each other while convincing Mitch to move out.
And while the actor, 44, doesn't have any other gigs lined up just yet—his most recent stab at producing, CBS' Living Biblically, was canceled after 13 episodes in 2018—he's busy preparing for his biggest role yet: fatherhood. On May 3, 2019, he and girlfriend Alaina Meyer announced that they were expecting their first child together. "We are absolutely over the moon to announce that we will soon be welcoming a little one into this crazy and wonderful world," he wrote on social media, sharing the big news. "There truly is love out there for all. We hope ours is the ember of yours, as we feel yours is the ember of ours."
Although earlier this season Penny (Kaley Cuocuo) told her husband Leonard (Johnny Galecki) that she never wanted kids, part two of the finale reveals that she is pregnant. But when Sheldon dismisses her announcement, Leonard angrily says “to hell with” his Nobel Prize. When his friends threaten to leave at his poor treatment of them, Sheldon takes time to self reflect.
Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom (recurring seasons 2–5, 7, starring seasons 6, 8–12): A mild-mannered, under-confident owner of a comic book store. A competent artist, Stuart is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, and though he is socially awkward he possesses slightly better social skills. Stuart implies he is in financial trouble and that the comic book store now also is his home. He is later invited to join the guys' group while Howard is in space. Stuart gets a new job caring for Howard's mother later. After Mrs. Wolowitz's death, Stuart continues to live in her home, along with Howard and Bernadette, until he finds a place of his own.
As Sheldon and Amy start to plan their wedding, they use decision theory to limit the stress of choosing between their competing visions for the big day. After they begin to question each other’s decisions and make deliberately provocative choices, they decide to have a simple wedding at City Hall. As they wait their turn, Sheldon changes his mind and decides he wants a first dance with Amy at a real wedding.
Keith Carradine has appeared in three episode as Penny's father, Wyatt, first in Season 4. Katey Sagal, who played the on-screen mother of Kaley Cuoco's character in the 2002-2005 sitcom 8 Simple Rules, has appeared as Penny's mother in one episode of The Big Bang Theory. Jack McBrayer has appeared in one episode of The Big Bang Theory as Penny's brother, Randall.
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.